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Maths

Negative numbers

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Adding and subtracting

To add and subtract numbers always begin counting from zero.

When dealing with positive numbers count to the right.

When dealing with negative numbers count to the left.

Using a number line

a number line from -5 to 5. Each number between -5 and 5 is marked.

A number line

Example

Calculate 4 - 5 - 3

Imagine moving up and down a number line to get to the answer.

Starting from zero, count up to 4. Then subtract 5. Then subtract 3. The answer is -4.

Number line calculation

arrow showing +4 from 0, which is 4

Starting from zero, count up to 4.

Question

Calculate: - 2 + 9 - 10 + 6

Answer

If you wrote the answer 3 or +3, then well done!

Shows a number line from -8 to 8. Starting from zero, minus 2 (-2), add 9 (7), minus 10 (-3) and add 6 (3)

Two signs

When adding or subtracting negative numbers, remember that when two signs appear next to each other and are different, then you subtract. When two signs are next to each other and they are the same, you add:

+ - and - + equals - but + + and - - equals +
Question

Calculate:

a) 10 + - 7
b) 4 - - 3

Answer

a) 10 + - 7 = 10 - 7 = 3
b) 4 - -3 = 4 + 3 = 7

Activity

Negative number activity

Feeling positive about negative numbers? Test your knowledge with this activity.

Play

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